Small Jobs in Maintenance – Top Tips

Every maintenance professional should strive to rise above reactivity. Effective planning and scheduling are critical components to rising out of reactivity, aka the Circle of Despair. If you are reading this, you probably already know why maintenance planning is important. This post is about small jobs in maintenance that need limited or no formal planning. You can watch two videos that I did about it instead of reading the article, Part 1 can be viewed below. Watch Part 2 on our YouTube channel along with our other videos – subscribe and get notified of all our new videos.

One of the struggles that comes with being reactive is an ever-growing backlog. You try to do the right things right and plan every job, but you often think “how will I ever plan it all?” The good and possibly surprising news is…you don’t have to! There are certain maintenance jobs where the formal planning process isn’t necessary because it’s just overkill and not cost effective.

This a maintenance job category known as “small jobs” which meet four criteria. This type of job is managed instead of planned and as such they do not need to go through the formal planning process. However, there are some controls that must be followed to prevent this job category from being abused.

What’s the Criteria for Small Jobs in Maintenance?

As mentioned above, there are four criteria that signify a maintenance job can be categorized as a small job. These are not hard and fast rules, but just examples. You should tailor your criteria to best meet your business needs. One important thing to note is that the criteria you choose for your organization must be documented and communicated for it to be effective and to not complicate things down the line.

  • Requires no more than 2 human hours to complete.
  • Parts and materials cost less than $200.
  • The job does not require a shutdown.
  • The job does not involve the modification of any equipment or process.

What is the management process for small jobs in maintenance?

Now, let’s discuss the management process for a small job contrasted with formal job planning process. The question we should ask right now is, “who is responsible for managing small jobs?” The short answer is the maintenance supervisor. (Watch our YouTube series about a Maintenance Supervisor’s roles and responsibilities here!)

A need for repair is identified that meets the small job criteria. Depending on your organization, the requestor should notify the maintenance supervisor of the maintenance deficiency.

Where does a small job fit into the daily/weekly schedule?

After being notified of the work request, the maintenance supervisor assesses the urgency and scope of the job or possibly assigns a tradesperson to do this assessment in his or her place. If the assessment finds that the job does indeed meet the small jobs criteria, the maintenance supervisor assigns a tradesperson and schedules the job in a way that is compatible with the weekly or daily maintenance schedule.

The costs and labor hours associated with the job should be applied to a standing work order that is assigned to a specific equipment or asset number instead of creating a unique work order.

Just a note – small jobs should not be considered break-in jobs and experienced planners know to leave some flexibility within the schedule to allow for the small jobs that do come up.

The next step is to perform the work. If something comes up during the job that is going to cause the job duration to exceed two hours or cost more than $200. Return everything to a safe and as-functional-as-possible-state and notify the maintenance supervisor that a formal work order will have to be created.

The next step is to perform the work. If something comes up during the job that is going to cause the job duration to exceed two hours or cost more than $200. Return everything to a safe and as-functional-as-possible-state and notify the maintenance supervisor that a formal work order will have to be created.

The tradesperson will record the data for the portion of work performed into the work history of the standing work order so that the integrity of the asset history can be preserved and KPIs can be calculated.

small jobs in maintenance
KPI definition. Do you know “Which KPI, When?. If not, read this article.

Just to recap, some key differences between small job management and the formal planning process are:

  1. Managed by the maintenance supervisor instead of planner.
  2. A standing work order is used instead of creating a standard work order.
  3. The job is scheduled by the maintenance supervisor rather than the scheduler
  4. There are controls unique to small job management that is not part of the formal planning process.
  5. There are also KPIs that only apply to small jobs.

Planners always have so much on their plate, and they will only be more successful if you start prioritizing your efforts and not just the work orders.

The management controls needed for small jobs in maintenance

In video 2 of this series, I’m discussing the unique small job management controls that must be in place to keep the planning and scheduling process from going completely downhill. Keep reading for a synopsis of that content.

What are the necessary elements of small job management?

The first is a well written work request as this is where the supervisor gets most of the details. The description should be clear enough that there is no need for a work order package or, ideally, any verbal instructions beyond what is on the work request.

Maintenance work request entry
Work request entry

The second is what is called a “small jobs error report”.

This is a weekly report sent out by the maintenance supervisor that is basically an estimate vs. actual type of report. It lists the data of tasks completed as small jobs that ended up exceeding the limiting criteria of a small job.

Say for instance there was secondary damage that was not observed during the assessment, but instead of reporting the updated estimate to the supervisor, the tradesperson decided to make all the necessary repairs since it wouldn’t take that much longer that originally thought. No! Bad.

The supervisor must hold the well-meaning tradespersons accountable for not following the management process because in this instance, the duration of repair only increased by 5 minutes, but the cost totaled $400 which disqualifies it as a small job. This job should have gone through the formal process.

The last and probably the most important is Key Performance Indicators that measure the percentage of jobs charged to equipment or asset numbers AND one that measures the percentage of jobs that do not meet the small job criteria.

Equipment or asset number

You will need to be diligent with your “small jobs error reports” as this is where the data for this second KPI comes from.

These will be used to monitor whether people are abusing this process. Since there is no real benchmark for these KPIs, you will have to determine what percentage is typical for your organization and monitor for any significant changes.

Additional Resources to Help You Succeed!

Managing small jobs in this manner is a very effective way to take a big chunk out of your planner’s workload and will help reduce the maintenance backlog more efficiently. But for the remaining work orders, a simple yet detailed and disciplined approach to planning is required.

As a planner, you will always have so much on your plate and you will only be more successful if you start prioritizing your efforts and not just the work orders.

Thank you for reading and remember to “keep it simple”.

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Greg Mecomber

Greg Mecomber

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